Have You Seen A Cat?

Posted October 20, 2016 by cathyso3
Categories: Author/Illustrator

Tags: , , , , ,


Have you seen a cat? If you haven’t, then it’s time you take a look at Brendan Wenzel’s latest picture book, THEY ALL SAW A CAT. It’s a simply told tale about a cat walking through the world and the creatures who see it. What makes this picture book unique are the illustrations. Each creature sees the cat from its own distinctive perspective. The mouse sees a cat with sharp teeth and claws. The bee sees a cat from many different lenses. The bird sees a cat from high above. And so it goes with the other animals. Brendan Wenzel uses a wide variety of media to create his illustrations. His artistic approach and his double-page spreads will surprise and dazzle readers. And how does the cat see himself? You’ll have to get this book and find out!

This picture book, along with many other admirable books, has been nominated for the 2016 Cybils Awards (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards).


Break Out!

Posted October 13, 2016 by cathyso3
Categories: Life

Tags: , , , ,

Creativity can only go so far in in your little writing hidey-hole. Maybe it’s time to break out! Stretch your wings, breathe the crisp fall air, and enjoy the beauty surrounding you.img_1498

Last week, I did just that. We took a trip to the Midwest to see friends and attend a wedding. It included a little history, a little culture, a little nature, and a lot of love and friendship.

A little history …


James J. Hill:  Builder of the Great Northern Railway



A little religious culture at the Cathedral of St. Paul …




A little pop culture … a Prince-ly site.



The Capital in Madison, WI




 Minnesota:  Land of 10,000 Lakes and big pumpkins!






This is a fabulous time of the year to feed your inner self with the beauty that’s all around you. It’s a perfect way to spark creativity.

And don’t forget to take time and read!


Busy, Busy, Busy!

Posted October 6, 2016 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books

Tags: , , , , , ,

We’ve all had busy weeks, and it can be very exhausting. If you’re like me, you may even lose track of the days. I have just the book for you and your little ones to help you keep those days in order.


Busy Builders, Busy Week! written by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Leo Timmers will keep everyone on their toes. There’s an important job that must be completed by the end of the week. The work crew has something to do each day to make sure things get done on time. Leo Timmers’ delightfully silly illustrations show the animal crew hard at work. Reidy’s fast-paced rhyming text keeps readers turning pages as they follow the day-to-day jobs. When Saturday arrives, there’s a fun ending for both animals and readers. This book is not only amusing, but it’s also a great way to introduce and teach the days of the week. Youngsters won’t want to miss this one!



Apple Pickin’ Time

Posted September 29, 2016 by cathyso3
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

Autumn is my favorite time of the year. The foliage puts on its best show. The days are crisp. And the apples are oh, so delicious! It’s time for apple picking – Courtland, Macintosh, Red Gala, Braeburn … Yum! Yum! Yum!


Getting ready to pick.


Rows and rows of apples!


A perfect specimen.



What to do with all these apples? No problem! It’s apple crisp, apple cake, apple pie, applesauce, and a bushel of apple books!

Apple-Cranberry Cake

Take a bite of out of this delicious apple-cranberry cake and one of these yummy books.

The Apple Orchard Riddle written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Apples for Everyone written by Jill Esbaum

Applesauce Season written by Eden Ross Lipson and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein

Pinkalicious: Apples, Apples, Apples! written and illustrated by Victoria Kann

Apples A to Z written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by Jake Parker

Apples written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons

The Apple Pie Tree written by Zoe Hall and illustrated by Shari Halpern


And the Winner Is …

Posted September 22, 2016 by cathyso3
Categories: Uncategorized


I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the Hazel Mitchell/Toby giveaway.

Drumroll, please.

In bold print, the winner is …

Traci Bold!

Congratulations, Traci! I’ll contact you for further information.


An Out of this World Book!

Posted September 15, 2016 by cathyso3
Categories: Picture Books

Tags: , , ,

I’m always on the lookout for picture books that entertain readers – especially if I’m reading it multiple times to youngsters. While at our local library, I found a book that does just that.


Best Frints in the Whole Universe is written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis − an award-winning author. Kids and adults who have a lively sense of humor will love this book. Portis has a wonderful grasp of wordplay. She uses words that are spelled and pronounced differently but are easily translated into our everyday language. The illustrations are bold, bright, and hysterical. The theme is friendship, but sometimes these friends don’t always get along. A poke in the eye, a bite on the tail, some angry words, and a ruined spossip are actions that could mean the end of their relationship, but these quirky characters manage to patch things up. No matter how you say it or read it, the two will always be “best frints.” Don’t forget to look at the end pages. It’s a picture dictionary of words used on the planet Boborp. If you want an out of this world experience, read this book!

Make sure to go to your library and find other great books.

Don’t miss next week’s blog. The winner of the Toby giveaway will be announced! If you want a chance to win a swag bag and the book, make a comment on my last week’s blog before 11:59 tonight, 9-15-16. 



Meet Toby and Hazel Mitchell Plus a Giveaway!

Posted September 8, 2016 by cathyso3
Categories: Author/Illustrator Interview

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Toby Cover RGB

TOBY. Copyright © 2016 by Hazel Mitchell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

If you and your family adore animals – especially dogs – Toby is exactly what you need! This appealing picture book, written and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell, will melt your heart. Moving to a new place can be unsettling, and the companionship of an animal can help make things better. When a young boy and his father move into a new house, they adopt a rescue dog named Toby. Toby howls through the night, is afraid of almost everything, doesn’t like to play, and chews on things he’s not supposed to chew. Dad begins to think maybe Toby isn’t the right dog after all. With determination and patience, the young boy shows his dad that he’s wrong about Toby. As the boy works hard to train Toby, a special bond is created between the two of them. Hazel Mitchell’s text combined with her muted pastel illustrations have an emotional impact on the reader. Words and pictures evoke a feeling of warmth and love. This touching story is one that will be enjoyed again and again.


Today is my lucky day! I’m thrilled to have Hazel Mitchell and her dog, Toby, visiting my blog. Hazel has illustrated numerous picture books and won many awards. Her newest book, Toby, is her debut as an author/illustrator.

Welcome, Hazel and Toby! It’s a real treat for me to interview both of you. And speaking of treats, I hear one of Toby’s favorite things is getting treats.

Is that right, Toby?

WOOF! I love treats! I didn’t know what they were at first. But now pepperoni is my favorite thing.

Hazel, what made you decide to transition from illustrator to author/illustrator? And what was your biggest challenge in doing so?

I always wanted to write since I was at school. And I wrote, but I never finished anything. When I decided I wanted to write for children (and I had journeys into adult fiction!) I really hadn’t much clue what children’s publishers were looking for. I’d always made my way in the world in art and design, so being an illustrator first came naturally. I was lucky to receive a book contract from my very first mail out back in 2010 (How to Talk to an Autistic Kid by Daniel Stefanski) and have been working ever since. Along the way I was writing picture book manuscripts and the more books I illustrated, the more I understood the art of writing a picture book. My biggest challenge was the learning curve in understanding just what makes a good story – in 32 pages. The writing and illustrating of your own book is a back and forth process and it’s hard to know which comes first – pictures or words. Sometimes, both come together.

Toby is a rescue dog and the inspiration for your book. Can you give us some background on how Toby came to live with you and ended up becoming the main character in your picture book?

Toby came to us in fall 2013. He was a state seizure with his family of poodles from a breeder here in Maine. The dogs were all kept in harrowing conditions. Toby had barely been out of a dark basement and was terrified of everything. (Even pepperoni!). At first, we were just going to foster him, but after a few weeks, we realized if we passed him on for adoption the likelihood was he’d keep going back and forth to the shelter. So, we adopted him. In spring 2014, whilst in between illustrating books, I was working on creating a new picture book idea and was playing around with different concepts. It was Harold Underdown, children’s editor, who suggested Toby as a subject (I thought writing about a rescue dog had been done so many times!). But they say write about what you love. And I knew a lot of people loved Toby, having followed his progress on social media after I adopted him. I placed Toby in a different scenario with a young boy and his dad. I decided to do this to give the reader someone else to connect to in the story and have more emotional energy. It worked well, because my agent, Ginger Knowlton saw the book and signed me with Curtis Brown and we sold the book to Liz Bicknell at Candlewick Press first submission!

Toby, how does it feel to be the star in your very own book?

I love it! I think I was born to be a star! Stars get a LOT of pepperoni. I also like the boy in my book, it would be cool to have a young friend. But I love my people.

Toby took a walk on the wild side after he escaped under a fence and ran away a few years ago. His adventure made him quite a celebrity when people from all over the world followed the search for him on the internet. Can you tell us more about that?

Oh, my. That was quite an adventure for a little dog who’d hardly been outside. He was still afraid of the garden! It was very hard to think of him out in the big world with all its dangers. I sincerely thought we’d never get him back. Because people had already been following Toby’s story since I adopted him, they really were upset when he went missing. Local Maine people turned out to search for him, looking in woods, walking the roads, even kayaking down rivers hoping to see him on the riverbanks. We put posters up everywhere and had pet tracker dogs to try to find him. The worst thing was lying awake at night when the end of a tropical storm went through and imagining him out in the thunder and lightning. I don’t think I slept at all. We were just beginning to wonder if we’d ever come to terms with the loss of Toby, when he returned to the place he was lost from and then he was home, unscathed and happy to get his treats! The online world breathed again! And so did we. What most people don’t know is that the book was already on submission with Candlewick Press. Alongside worrying about Toby in the wild, I was concerned that if Candlewick bought the book I wouldn’t have the heart to illustrate it. But all’s well that ends well! (As someone famous once said.)

Toby, do you have anything you want to add?

I never want to be lost again. The world is a very scary place for a small dog. I still don’t like wind and rain and big bangs and flashes. Or things that howl in the night … but there WAS a lot of pepperoni that people dropped everywhere and I think that helped me find my way home. WOOF!

Has illustrating always been a dream of yours? Who or what inspired you to become one?

The truth is, all I was ever good at in school was art and English. I drew in all my classes (even math) and spent my spare time in the art room. My other love was horses and I wanted to go work with them when I was 18, but my art teacher persuaded me to go to art college. (Good call!) Back in the 1980’s in the UK, illustration courses were pretty much unheard of. I’d no idea about book illustration, although I loved picture books. I became a graphic designer and commercial illustrator. And that’s what I did till I came to live in the USA and let my dreams of illustrating books surface again. Then, thank goodness, I joined the SCBWI and finally, all the dark secrets of publishing became clear! (go to http://www.scbwi.org)

Your illustrations in Toby ooze with emotion. Tell us about your process and what types of materials you use.

Thank you. That’s the best compliment! It was one of my goals to create mood and emotional content. I’d envisioned the book as being almost wordless when I began, or with sparse text, but it was necessary to add some linking lines between pages to make the story easier to follow. The text changed as I created (and cut) pictures in the book. I wanted to give the illustrations a timeless and somewhat retro feel. And give them the feel of books I loved as a child. (Mostly British of course!). 


TOBY. Copyright © 2016 by Hazel Mitchell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

My process is to create the line work in graphite, trying to stay loose (always hard!) I work with very soft 7b or 9b Derwent pencils on Arches hot press paper (140lb). I then wash over the pencil (which doesn’t smudge as much as you’d think) with a one colour, watercolour wash (burnt sienna usually), to add texture and shadows. I then scan at about 400dpi and colour digitally, very lightly in Photoshop (which I have been using since about 1990). I work at about 125% size. My final pages are all sent to the publisher print ready.


TOBY. Copyright © 2016 by Hazel Mitchell. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Toby, have you ever dabbled in drawing or painting?

Only when I walk through mud in the garden and bring it into the house. That’s not too popular. I know some dogs paint with their tails! Do you think there’s a market for it? I do have a paw-print stamp that my people made from my footprint in the snow so I can sign my books. WOOF!

Writing and illustrating a book is very time-consuming. How long did it take you to write and illustrate this book?

It takes a lot longer than people who don’t do it think, that’s for sure! I started writing the story in Spring 2014 and publication is Fall 2016. Actually working on the art was about a year. I did about 5 full drafts before I started on the final art itself. So it was about half and half in sketches and painting time. It was fantastic working with Liz Bicknell, Ann Stott and Carter Hasegawa at Candlewick Press on Toby. They really cared about the book and my vision. And the final printing quality is wonderful – as you would expect from Candlewick Press. They are the best!

I know you do school visits. Will Toby accompany you to any of the schools?

Alas, no. He’s still very fearful and doesn’t like the big world much. And he doesn’t like computers, so skyping with him is also out. I have a Toby hand puppet who’ll go in his place and answer questions for the children. Now Lucy, (who is another rescue poodle we adopted last year) LOVES people .. so maybe she could go and represent Toby.

 Toby, what do you think about that?

I am happy to stay home. People are scary. Although .. maybe there might be treats? Perhaps one day …

Do you have plans to write and illustrate another picture book? Will there be another Toby adventure?

I am working on other stories at the moment, so I hope to have good news in the future. I would love to create another Toby story. Maybe starring Lucy, too! She’s quite envious of Toby. (Even though she gets just as many treats as he does).

What’s the best advice you can give to a new illustrator or writer?

Practice. Read. Practice. Read. Join the SCBWI. Practice. Read. Go to conferences. Learn all you can. Talk to other people in the industry. Practice. Read. Be bold!

Hazel, is there something we don’t know about you that might surprise us?

I once painted a portrait of Princess Anne that I presented to her on behalf of the Royal Navy.

And my fav dessert is crème brûlée.

And I broke my leg parachuting.

That’s it.

What about you, Toby? Do you have a secret you’d like to share?

Hmm … I love pepperoni. Oh wait, that’s not a secret!

Thank you, Hazel Mitchell and Toby for visiting my blog. It’s been a true pleasure and lots of fun getting to know both of you!

Thank you for having us, we enjoyed answering your questions. WOOF!

Hazel Mitchell’s book debuts on Tuesday, September 13th. Don’t miss your chance to get your paws on it! Find it here  and here.

Hazel and Toby close up

Hazel Mitchell has always loved drawing and still cannot be reliably left alone with a pencil. She has illustrated many books for children including Imani’s Moon, One Word Pearl, Animally and Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? ‘Toby’ is her author-illustrator debut from Candlewick Press. Her work has received several awards and been recognized by Bank Street Books, Learning Magazine, Reading is Fundamental,  Foreword Reviews, NYCReads365, Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles, Charlotte/Mecklenburg, Chicago and Maine State libraries among others. Originally from England, where she attended art college and served in the Royal Navy, she now lives in Maine with her poodles Toby and Lucy and a cat called Sleep. She still misses British fish and chips but is learning to love lobster. Find out more about her books at www.hazelmitchell.com

Represented by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd., NYC

Links for Toby:




Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TgIF-6Yo1o

Finally, THE GIVEAWAY!!! For a chance to win a free copy of Toby written and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell (Candlewick Press, September 2016) and a swag bag with a personalized bookplate, leave a comment about the post below. Please note:  You must be a resident of the U.S. and at least 18 years of age to enter. The giveaway ends on Thursday, 9/15/16 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be randomly picked and announced on my blog post on 9/22/16.








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